OP-ED: My Thoughts on the Capitol Riots

This post is bound to make someone somewhere unhappy. Fair warning, this is an opinion piece, and it is going to be political. I’m even going to bring some religion into it. There’s no way around it.

What it’s not going to be is a news source. I’m not going to deliver a blow-by-blow of what went down in the District of Columbia capitol of the United States last week. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve got the gist of it. No, this post is to talk about my response to the event. I’m going to bring in some religion thoughts on the matter as well. So, what did I think about the capitol riots?

Probably one of the most shameful things, in a presidency of shameful things, to happen during the Trump administration.

I’m not very secretive of my dislike for President Trump and his policies. Or for his attitudes, behavior, and leanings. Personally, I find Trump to be the poster child for the most dangerous type of adult mentality warned about in books like The Pinch. He’s incapable of losing or admitting fault, and is willing to say anything, and I do mean anything, to get what he wants. It’s how he’s leaving office with the lowest amount of campaign promises even attempted to be fulfilled (by which I mean actually took any steps to follow them at all), with around half. Much of what he did accomplish was the equivalent of a child running water over a toothbrush and making noises to cover up that they don’t want to brush their teeth. To the parent watching TV and barely paying attention, it certainly appeared to be an actual effort, but anyone who took a closer look knew that there was tomfoolery going on.

Now, I want to point out that this does not mean I preferred Biden. Or Hillary from 2016. Rather I found the whole trio all sorts of unpalatable as far as my political stance went. But as President Trump did win the election, that puts him and his policies in a direct hot seat for analysis, upon which I can very thoroughly say I dislike much of what he’s accomplished during his time in office. For example, for all Trump’s talk about “small business,” data released by his own administration for the 2016-2019 period (so without the absolutely colossal mishandling of Covid-19) shows that his practices and policies have been horrible for small businesses, which are fewer in number, paying higher taxes, hiring less people, and in general dropping across the board. And that was before Covid-19. Turns out all that talk about small business was just that: talk.

So yeah, I’m not fond of a President who seems far more concerned with talking very loudly about how well they’re brushing their teeth and how impressed their dentist will be while loudly running water over the brush and grinning at themselves in the mirror. So when President Trump became Calvin from Bill Watterson’s famous Calvin & Hobbes even before the election was over, stating that he had obviously won, why wouldn’t he win, and clearly any other result was simply cheating, well … Let’s just say a President of the US parroting an argument put forth by a six year old in a newspaper comic strip, but unironically didn’t fill me with much hope.*

*It’s worth pointing out, if I’m recalling the creator’s commentary correctly, that Watterson noted that Calvin’s character was supposed to be representative of his generation’s behaviors as children, and a worry that many of them never grew out of it.

Now, I’m going to set aside the question of election fraud, as well as the oddly specific criteria President Trump has approached it with. That’s a question for the courts to decide. I’m going to talk instead about what happened Wednesday.

It was a shameless act of sedition and insurrection, and I hope the courts bury those who took part in it deep in their legal system.

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Why You Should Read … The Pinch

Yes, it’s time for another one of these posts. Why You Should Read …, if you’re not familiar with them, are posts where I talk about books other than my own that I have perused, enjoyed for one reason or another, and now recommend to all of you for (probably) those same reasons.

I’m a big proponent of reading—well, not just reading, but thinking and comprehending. Thinking critically. Questioning. Gathering information and then using it to look at the world through a new lens. Comparing lenses and asking why one may work better than another.

I’m also a big proponent of seeking out knowledge. I don’t hold at all with the idea that “what I’ve got is good enough, and I refuse to learn more” (sadly a common concept, I feel, in modern culture). We should, I believe, always be striving to learn new things, new knowledge and new concepts. Again, there’s a way to do that intelligently and with patience, but seeking out and learning new things is one of the blessings of modern society. Well, at least, the capability to do so is. A lot of people, sadly, don’t take advantage of this, then still want to play in the grand sandbox, pitting their toy soldiers of ideas against actual tanks (and often not understanding in the slightest why their plastic memes failed to make a dent in a well-armored, carefully researched opponent).

Basically, Why You Should Read … posts are the occasional recommendation of books that I find worthy of being added to someone’s read shelf, for one reason or another. Some are fiction (because you absolutely can learn a lot from fiction, as many scientific studies are discovering) and some are non-fiction (because understanding the building blocks of the world around us along with its cause and effect is pretty important). Today I’m recommending one of the latter: The Pinch by David Willets. Or, to use it’s less common full title, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future — And Why They Should Give it Back.

Yeah. It’s a mouthful. And the longer title isn’t especially popular with some people, as you may guess. After all, it straight up points out an issue and assigns blame right there, and against a particular generation that doesn’t much like being blamed for anything save the good. Which, you might suspect, could be part of the problem.

But David Willets is not intimidated. In fact, he’s a member of that generation (the Boomers). He’s also a British lord and chair of the British Science Association as well as a member of the British Council of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In other words, he’s not some random individual. Willets is someone who was tasked with studying the economic impact of the largest generation ever, along with a whole wing of the British government and independent research groups. And after a several-decade study, comparing data going all the way back to the late 1800s (and in some cases even earlier), and yes, involving the United States, Willets wrote a book about their findings to try and widen their audience because, well, it’s vitally important that people know what they found out.

And I’m saying that you should read it. Hit the jump.

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A Big Post – News and News

I know I’ve been pretty quiet this week. I’ve been focused.

But before I say anything else. Before I talk about book news or any of the other tidbits I want to touch on today, I want to say one thing.

Thank you to everyone who left a supportive comment last week. They may not have seemed like much to you, but they gave me some piece of mind. I still don’t know if the current opening chapters of Starforge will stay the way they are by the end, but I know a lot of you were just happy to hear that I’m working my best on it and wanted to remind me of that.

So thank you. Your words of support helped ease my mind quite a bit, and I appreciated them greatly.

Tying into that, many of you will be glad to hear that I continued to press foward, and Starforge‘s first draft now sits at 123,156 words! Part one is complete, the interlude is written, and today I get to start on part two! Where things will blow up, characters will die, and … Well, I’ve already said too much. But I’m glad for all your support, and I’m working hard to make this the biggest, baddest, most jaw-dropping finale you could ask for.

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OP-ED: Opinion and Reality

Fair warning from the start: This post is going to address that beast, politics, and talk about it a little. Probably not in the way most of you expect, but it is going to address it. So fair warning, this might be messy. But I’m pulling no punches and diving right in.

The last few months have reminded me of an experience I once had a little over a decade ago. I collect cool background images for my PC, and from a variety of sources. Photographs of national parks, neat images from video-games I’ve played, whatever. That mix and combination, however, lead to a very interesting exchange.

I had a visitor over who, through one means or another had noticed my rotating backgrounds, and commented on them and how nice they looked. At the moment, the background in question had been showing a very artistic photograph of Hamburg, Germany. I nodded, agreeing, and then noted that it almost made me want to visit and see the city someday.

At which point, this individual did something very unexpected and unusual. They shook their head sadly and said “Oh sure, that’d be nice, but it’s not a real place.”

Stunned and slightly perplexed, I replied that it was indeed very real. Hamburg, Germany was a city on a map.

At this point things took a swift turn sideways. This individual, who up until this point I had assumed was a rational, thinking human being, shook their head and with a sad, patronizing tone said ‘Oh no, it’s not hun. You just think it is because of all those video games you play. You’ve lost touch with reality. You think these imaginary places are real.’

After a moment’s pure shocked disbelief, I replied that I knew very well the difference between fantasy and reality, and replied that Hamburg, Germany was a very real place.

Their response? They shook their head, told me how sad it was that playing video games had messed with my head so much, and hoped that one day I would realize the difference between fantasy and reality.

To this day I wonder if that individual ever realized exactly how crazy they sounded.

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Being a Better Writer: Building Politics for Your Setting

Hello readers! Welcome back to another episode of Being a Better Writer! There’s no weekend news (or rather any you didn’t already know past Episode 10 of Fireteam Freelance dropping), so we’re just going to dive right into things and get down to it!

Last week, if you’ll recall, we talked about politics in writing and how the “keep politics out of fiction” movement is based an erroneous idea of what politics actually are (or “is” in the case of writing). If you’ve not read that post, I do recommend reading it before starting today’s post, as if someone heads into this one without a grasp on what “politics” actually means is likely going to find themselves confused and annoyed. So here’s the link to Politics and Writing. Once you’ve given that a read, you’ll be set with the foreknowledge for today’s post.

Those of you that are already caught up, good on you, and let’s dive in!

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Being a Better Writer: Politics and Writing

Welcome back readers! No news this week, we’re just diving right in! I felt that with the United States celebrating Independence Day this last weekend, today’s post topic felt timely. Though it wasn’t inspired by current events. This topic has been on the list for several months, inspired by a combination of commentary on various book and writing locales online as well as some very public statements by a gaming company on the nature of politics and stories (statements I disagreed with, personally).

So then, with no further ado, let’s jump in and talk about politics and writing. This is going to be a rather involved post, and as well, I suspect, somewhat controversial, because as of late culturally the idea of talking about politics has become fairly divisive in and of itself. Or to put it bluntly: Many seem to only think politics should be spoken about as long as what’s being said supports their position (no matter what it is) with as little friction as possible.

Which is kind of a genesis of sorts for this post. See, today we’re not going to talk about how to write political intrigue in our stories, nor how to write a book that focuses on politics and governmental drama. Not at all (besides, you approach that like any other topic: lots of research). No today we’re discussing the idea of having “politics” be something in a story at all.

You may have heard this statement before from someone in person or online, or at least a statement akin to it: “I don’t like politics in my story. There’s no need for them. [Creator] can just make a story without politics in it.”

Yeah, this is a popular phrase being parroted around these days. If you haven’t heard it, count yourself lucky, because any following discussion devolves into madness, usually quite quickly. However, this commonality of this statement does raise a legitimate question: are they right?

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A Brief Post Concerning the State of Things in the US

Those of you who are in the US most likely know what I’m talking about today. Those of you outside the US have most likely picked up tidbits, given the amount of non-US news crews covering everything (and finding themselves assaulted for it), so I don’t need to rehash the events surrounding the death of George Floyd or the subsequent protests and then riots sweeping across the US here. If you somehow haven’t gathered much on what happened (another cop killing someone on camera in cold blood with no repercussions) … well that parenthetical is likely all you need to decipher, along with a decent imagination of “Well, how would people react to that?”

Now, I’m not going to go into a lot of depth on this today. Be aware that that depth does exist. If you wish to find records of police brutality, videos of Australian news crews being clubbed with batons, or old men beat up by police until they’re lying bleeding on the pavement for the “crime” of trying to get to their home or waiting for a bus.

So what am I going to say on this? A few things.

First, the murder of George Floyd was wrong. As is any of the racial profiling that still sticks with a lot of people in the US. I think I’ve made it pretty clear over the course of seven books that I think judging someone based on the color of their skin is an utterly asinine practice that no one should engage in. Positive or negative (yes, it’s just as bad to assume someone is “good” because of a skin color as it is to assume something bad about them).

People. Are. People. We’re all human beings on this little rock we call Earth. Blue, green, purple, whatever. Judging someone based on the color of their skin is wrong.

You want to make a judgement on someone, do it by something that matters, like the content of their character.

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Why You Should Read … The War on Normal People

Yes, I realize this is somewhat of a weird post. After all, Jungle came out just two weeks ago. If anything, I should be pushing you to read that.

And, well, I still am. Today’s post doesn’t really take away from that. The title I’m recommending today, for instance, is non-fiction. As opposed to Jungle, which is fiction. It does, however, discuss some issues that Jungle explores and even addresses, elements that were underlying themes even in Colony.

But before we get too into that, what is Why You Should Read …? Pretty simple, actually. It’s a recommendation post. Something I’ve always been a big proponent of, both on this site and in person, is that people should read more. Read as much as possible. It’s a vital part of being a good writer yourself, exposing yourself to other ideas and approaches. Even outside of writing, it’s good for the mind to introduce yourself to new concepts, ideas, or perspectives that you may not have thought about.

So, with offering that mindset I also have to live it, and one thing I enjoy doing a lot of when I’m not working is reading. Usually Sci-Fi or Fantasy (you can learn from those too) or the occasional non-fiction book when I get curious about something. Occasionally, I’ll come across a book that I think is worth recommending for one reason or another, and so I’ll bring it up and do one of these posts on it.

Now, before we move on, I want to make something clear: I get nothing out of recommending this book. No compensation, no ad revenue, no under-the-table wads of dollar bills or public/private recognition. I found this book, read it, and decided there was something in it worth gaining that made it worth recommending. I don’t get any compensation from talking about this book.

The only exception being if you, as a wanderer of the web, wend your way over to my books page and buy one of my own titles. But that’s one of my own books, and not in any way affiliated with the title I’ll be discussing today. If you grab one of those, you’re just grabbing one of those. If you go out of your way to pick up a copy of The War on Normal people, I don’t see a penny, because that’s not the point of these posts. There’s no compensation anywhere for me talking about why you should read it.

That said, I’ve talked enough about what this post is. How about we dive right in and talk about why I believe you should read The War on Normal People, by Andrew Yang.

Oh, and no worries about spoilers. This isn’t the type of book to have a spoiler warning.

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Being a Better Writer: Politics

Oh dear, what have I done? Why did I ever even write this topic down? What was I thinking? And then I picked it?

Actually, it’s not that bad. Some of you readers may have had similar reactions to seeing this topic, considering what it could discuss … and let’s be honest, that is a topic I could discuss, and likely will at another time.

Just not today. No, today’s topic of politics isn’t going to be involved with the real-world, thankfully (because that’s a mess). No, instead I want to talk about the politics in your book. No, not those “social politics” of the theme and whatnot. Not that at all. That’s the other topic, the one most of us dread because it’s so overblown these days.

No, I want to talk about the political sphere of your story. The politics in your story, that the characters are part of. Not the reader.

Now, because I’ve seen this topic broached before at conventions, writing classes, and the like, I can imagine what the average response is to this topic. Either a confused expression (fairly common) or a deadpan,  bored look coupled with the thought “Well, my book doesn’t involve politics or anything like that, so I’m just going to zone out” (which is equally common, in my experience). But … you’re wrong. If you’re thinking that right now, you’re wrong. And here’s why.

Almost every story, no matter the subject, will involve politics of some kind. In some way, from some angle. Politics will be there.

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